Imagine this conversation. I’ve just invited someone to a party at my apartment:
“I hope to see you there! I live on Main Street.”
“Ugh, really? I can’t stand Main Street. Could I take Elm instead?”
“I guess you could do that, but you’d have to loop around eventually. My apartment is literally on Main Street. If you don’t get on Main Street, you won’t get to the party.”
“Isn’t that a little narrow minded of you?”
“I’m taking Elm. See you at the party.”
I’m guessing you haven’t had this exact conversation. Why? Partially because Google has rendered the art direction-giving obsolete, but mostly because giving someone directions to a party is generally seen as helpful.
But strangely enough, when Jesus insists, “No one comes to the father except through me,” he and all of Christianity get accused of narrow-minded exclusivity. To some degree, I can see where people are coming from on this, but at the end of the day, isn’t Jesus just giving us directions to the party at his dad’s house? If anyone has the authority to say, “Uh, I guess you could do that, but unless you come this way, you’re not getting in,” isn’t it Jesus?
What really makes it hard for me to accept the criticism that Christianity is exclusive is one of Jesus’ final commands to his disciples:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matt 28:19-20a, NIV)
Jesus doesn’t give his disciples directions to the party and then say, “Hey, don’t spread it around that I’m having a party, okay? I don’t want just anyone showing up.” He charges his disciples with going out to every single nation, making sure everyone knows how to get to his dad’s house.
That’s the opposite of exclusive.
Jesus isn’t choosy with the people he surrounds himself with. He doesn’t meticulously craft his crowd to make sure he’s only represented by the powerful, the beautiful, and the talented. In fact, it’s hard to open up to a passage in the gospels that doesn’t show Jesus committing social suicide by spending his time with some sort of outcast or oddball. The more I read about Jesus, the more I think the only people he ever pushed away were the people who felt like they didn’t really need him anyway.
And that’s good news for me.